Tips for flying (long haul) with a toddler.

Those congenial Expedia travel lords recently asked me to write about my experiences travelling with a toddler.

I happily obliged, because if there’s one thing I know about travelling 36 hours with a toddler, it’s two things:

  1. If possible, choose a toddler you actually like or are related to,
  2. It’s achievable.

We decided we liked our two year-old enough to fly to Europe with him, and so the planning began. We are frequent flyers, we travel domestically a lot and overseas a few times a year. We have even done this exact trip with him before… except he was four months old and all that was required was my boobs and the plane bassinet. We have flown to NYC and the Maldives with him, but this was before he was moving around. A toddler is different. And by different, I mean, do you really need to go to Italy?

There is a reason many antipodean parents instill a no-fly rule when their kids are aged between about 10 months and three. It’s a marathon effort. My husband wears sports clothes because he genuinely thinks of it as an endurance race.


Alas, I write this knowing our parent (2) to child (1) ratio is comically easy, especially when a friend of mine with SIX children, including twin one-year olds was on the same flight as us, but there is still planning involved, inasmuch as ideally you:

  1. a) Avoid melt-downs (yours. But also theirs, I guess)
  2. b) Get some sleep
  3. c) Not deliberately leave your child in transit because they’re slowly but powerfully extinguishing your will to live
    Here are some of the tips I have accrued for long-haul toddler flying.

Fly at night

Choose a night flight if it’s a long one. The child will be wide awake and stimulated at the airport, so run them ragged and make sure they have food in their belly. Yes, you risk a bit of a meltdown choosing a late night flight and it likely won’t be pretty at the departures gate, but better to have them so exhausted they can’t put up a fight on the flight, rather than well-rested and ready for ice cream and Despicable Me followed by Frozen and a few hundred laps of the aisle. Day flights have always failed for us. It’s too bright and exciting for child to sleep, and they are generally already hungry, antsy and tired from transit before we even board. What fun.

Be at the airport first, but board last

Be at the airport early. Everything takes longer with kids. If you’re travelling as a family, try to get one parent on first to ensure you get some cabin space for all your bags, then the other parent boards last with the kids (why sit on the plane any longer than required?) Once you’re on, try to make their seat as ‘bedroomy’ as possible: bring their sleeping sack/blanket or pillow, their comforter or teddy, and our travel must have for both the flight and the hotel at the other end: a big black scarf or piece of fabric and gaffa tape to tape over any lights above them. Read books to calm them.



Spare clothes

Pack a Wondersuit/PJs for child, (we dress ours in this for the airport, just chucking a jumper over the top and some shoes on for a stylish update) plus a full change of clothes for arrival. And plenty of undies or nappies. (We went through TEN NAPPIES flying to Greece with him as an infant. TEN. And four Wondersuits.) Also pack a spare top for you. You’ll be grateful for it.

Read the rest of the article over here.

But not here.

Responses to this drivel: 6 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 6 )
  • Chandni

    That was such a great read! I especially love the idea of the Plane Police in your Expedia article! It might just do the trick for our 18 month old. Oh and what an awesome idea to get the flight attendant to give them the treat! Saving this article for our future toddler travel adventures. 🙂

  • Jo Brooks

    What do you suggest for their ears popping on take off and landing? Bottle feeding?

  • Maria

    Hi travel stroller question – this we’ll be our second trip w our daughter, the first was when she was 11 months to Mexico and we brought our mountain buggy terrain – great jogging stroller w tons of space, we also have a bugaboo donkey in mono mode –  again love the space, I tend to travel heavy even to the store, first time mom and make sure I have everything- anyways we are going to NYC in July w her and she’ll be 18 months then – I’m going for work n she and my husband are tagging along, I’ve been multiple times but never w a baby – which stroller do I bring? Or do I get a smaller travel stroller? I looked at them and the underbaskets are so small and uncomfortable .. but I don’t want to fell overbearing w a large stroller, I know we will carry loads of things, probably not going back to the hotel until the end of the day,. But we probably take the sw down to soho one day- I just don’t  know if it’s worth spending another 300 on a small stroller when I’ve already spent so much —

  • Clara

    I’m desperately looking for the full version of this article! The Expedia one cuts off really early 🙁  and doesn’t give any tips. Flying to Ireland with a 2 year old in 6 months… help!

  • Erin

    Any help on getting the full article? As mentioned above the Expedia link cuts off very early in the piece. Thank you! 

  • Cazz Boylan

    Thanks to dr.mack201@gmail. com I am free from HERPES,,

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